Last week, 427 million people in the EU were eligible to vote – and for the first time in decades more than half of them made use of that privilege, from Northern Ireland to Cyprus, Lisbon's nightlife district to Finnish villages with more vowels than consonants in their names. While that might sound like good news, the reality is that last week's European elections have contributed to the continent's ongoing turn towards right-wing populism and extremism.
If European politics weren't already fascist enough, Italy's interior minister, Matteo Salvini, is looking to form a new group made up of far-right parties from across the continent, making it potentially the fourth biggest parliamentary group, while full-blown anti-EU parties such as Hungary's Fidesz, Britain's Brexit Party and Poland's Law and Justice Party could bring even more nationalist fervour to the parliament's floor. Not to mention extremist groups like Hungary's Jobbik and Greece's Golden Dawn still going fairly strong.
To prepare us for our ever-worsening future, we asked VICE offices across Europe to name and shame the most dangerous MEPs in the brand new European Parliament.
Maximilian Krah, Alternative für Deutschland
Who? Maximilian Krah's alarming rhetoric is one of the reasons Germany's domestic intelligence agency is currently investigating whether or not it should put the country's right-wing populists and oppositional party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) under surveillance.
What does he believe? The 42-year-old lawyer has frequently described the current migration policies in the EU as umvolkung – a term that was used by the Nazis to force people to assimilate into German culture. Krah also warned of a "collective sexual abuse of European girls" caused by what he calls an "oriental conquest". During campaign season he praised audiences in his home state of Saxony for being "all German, Saxon and white".
How big was his win? While the AfD only scored 11 percent nationwide, one in four voters in Krah's home state of Saxony – known for its anti-migrant riots, anti-Muslim PEGIDA protest and right-wing terrorism – voted for the AfD. As one of the most influential figures in the east German state, Krah's network spans various protest groups to create a "patriotic citizen platform", in which AfD politicians and various members of Generation Identity campaign together.
What's next from him? In March of this year, Krah attended a conference by the World Congress of Families, a fundamental Christian organisation opposing LGBTQ+ and abortion rights. A photo shows Krah with Matteo Salvini. It surely won't be the last meeting of the pair, as the rhetorically adept Krah is not a man of small ambitions.
– Thomas Vorreyer, VICE Germany
Jörg Meuthen, Alternative für Deutschland
Who? Jörg Meuthen is the national spokesperson for the AfD. He also looks like that awful history teacher you used to bombard with spitballs.
What does he believe? Meuthen wants fewer refugees coming to Germany. He also says that Europe needs to stop caring for Africa because Africa needs to take care of itself. As for the Hungarian autocrat Viktor Orbán, Meuthen has offered to "roll out the red carpet for him".
What's next for him? Meuthen has announced his plan to reestablish a "Europe of Fatherlands" – a collection of ultra-right groups from around Europe. He says he wants "Germany to make decisions for Germany again". To that end, he's even floated the idea of a "Dexit".
– Niclas Seydack, VICE Germany
Anne Widdecombe, Brexit Party
Who? Widdecombe is a former longtime Conservative Party MP who became notorious within the party for her long-standing support for the death penalty, which she views as a "deterrent" that would save innocent lives.
What does she believe? In addition to being pro-death penalty, Widdecome is anti-abortion. A devout Christian, Widdecombe converted from the Church of England to the Catholic Church because she was so appalled by the idea of women being priests. She doesn't believe in climate change, and has consistently blocked gay rights legislation, including voting against same-sex marriage.
How did she get elected? Widdecombe won one of three seats for MEP for the South West of England.
How big was the win? Sizeable: the Brexit Party won 36.7 percent of the vote.
What's next from her? Given her history, we can expect more regressive, illiberal views on gay marriage and abortion rights, and climate change denialism. But the main thing that Widdecombe is determined to achieve is Brexit at all costs.
Richard Tice, Brexit Party
Who? A multi-millionaire property developer, Tice is the co-founder of Leave.EU, which campaigned for Brexit in the 2016 referendum.
What does he believe? Tice is so determined to ensure the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal that he subsequently went on to found Leave Means Leave, which lobbies for a hard Brexit. According to Leave Means Leave's website, "There is still everything to play for – the night is darkest before the dawn, and we will prevail in the end." Whether what's left to prevail over is the mouldering ruin of the British economy remains to be seen.
What's next from him? The hardest of hard Brexits.
– Sirin Kale, VICE UK
Jorge Buixadé, VOX
Who? Buixadé is one of the leading figures in Spain's far-right party VOX party.
What does he believe? Like most members of his party, he advocates economic protectionism, reactionary policies and the strengthening of national sovereignty and borders. During an intervention in a campaign event, he became known worldwide for saying that feminists were ugly, comparing them to Cinderella's stepmother and stepsisters and saying that "ugly feminists tell other women what they should do". After these statements, thousands of people on Twitter responded with the hashtag #FeministaFea (UglyFeminist), which became a worldwide trending topic.
How did he get elected? Buixadé was a state's attorney between 1999 and 2003, and was stationed in the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia. Before that, he had been a candidate of the Spanish fascist party Falange, and later worked as a political advisor for the right-wing Partido Popular, pocketing €100,000 from one of the city councils he worked for.
Hermann Tertsch, VOX
Who? Tertsch is a Spanish journalist of Austrian descent who's been writing for the main Spanish outlets for decades.
What does he believe? Over the years, his liberal right-wing stance has progressively taken a turn to more extremist positions. His career has been marked by controversy. Several years ago he went as far as saying that the leaders of Podemos – the political party representing Spain's new left – would kill for their ideology. A few weeks ago he referred to left-wing journalists who tried to unveil his fascist past as "scum".
– Alba Carreres, VICE Spain
Harald Vilimsky, Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ)
Who? Vilimsky is a member of the right-wing, nationalist Freedom Party, and looks like the bouncer outside a club you wouldn't dream of entering.
What does he believe? Once upon a time, Vilimsky let himself be tasered by a corrections officer. He wanted to prove that the tasers that his party wanted to use against prison inmates were completely harmless. Since then, Vilimsky has made headlines with strange statements. Recently, he claimed that Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, is an alcoholic.
How did he get elected? By doing what his party and right-wing populists in general do: calling for more police and fewer migrants.
What's next for him? The FPÖ is considering forming a joint parliamentary group with the German right-wing party AfD. Their common goal: a "Europe of Fatherlands". All white, all nationalistic and all stuck in the past.
– Niclas Seydack, VICE Germany
Rareș Bogdan, the National Liberal Party of Romania
Who? Rareș Bogdan is an ex-TV personality turned politician – the poor man's Donald Trump, if you like. He's also one of the loudest voices inside the right-wing National Liberal Party of Romania, a winner at this year's EU elections.
What does he believe? He's a populist and a nationalist, and while he was a TV host for Realitatea TV, a Romanian news channel, he frequently appeared wrapped in a national flag or with a flag hanging from his desk. He's a staunch critic of the governing Social Democratic party (PSD) and its leader, Liviu Dragnea – which is not a bad thing – but his rhetoric is often populist, clownish and contains more style than substance. He also seems to think that Liviu Dragnea's party is going to give Transylvania back to the Hungarians to buy the support of the local Hungarian party (Hungarians are the largest minority in Romania, with a considerable representation in Parliament). Which is kind of delusional, and also just fanning a xenophobia and anti-Hungarian sentiment that's already so prevalent in post-communist Romania.
How did he get elected? Being a popular TV host really helped. During the last two years, the liberals were the main opposition group in the Romanian Parliament, but its leadership was considered weak by many, so they needed someone popular enough to surpass the Social Democrats in the upcoming elections. That's why they chose Rareș Bogdan as their front guy for the liberal campaign, which proved to be a winning strategy.
How big was his win? His party's win was pretty big, as it managed to defeat its arch-nemesis, the PSD. On the other hand, the centrist Save Romania Union-PLUS alliance, a grassroots political movement that managed to more than double its results in two years, could prove to be a serious threat to Bogdan and his party in future elections.
What's next from him? Although he has five years as an MEP ahead of him, he'll probably become even more involved with national politics and even more influential inside the Liberal Party, leading them into next year's Romanian parliamentary elections.
Cristian Terheș, Social Democratic Party
Who? Chris Terhes is a Romanian Greek Catholic from America, turned politician and member of the Social Democratic Party.
What does he believe? Four or five years ago, Terheș was a huge supporter of the anti-corruption movement, and highly critical of the ruling Social Democratic Party. Leftist only by name, the SDP's policies and leaders are considered pretty conservative. Over the years, he's turned against the anti-corruption camp and grown closer and closer to his former enemies, the Social Democrats. For Terheș, the fight against corruption suddenly became Stalinist in nature, and he became very concerned about the fate of jailed politicians, whom he perceived as martyrs of an abusive system. He's extremely homophobic, being a huge supporter of last year's referendum to make gay marriage illegal. After the referendum failed, he said: "The homosexual agenda will become even more violent in Romania, and the Romanian society does not have the proper antibodies to fight against it."
How did he get elected? All he had to do to get elected was to say whatever Liviu Dragnea and other SPD leaders were saying – which mainly involved spreading conspiracy theories about the Deep State. He was a regular guest for Antena 3, a pro-SPD TV news channel, so this helped him to become a SPD member and candidate for the European elections.
How big was his win? This is a big win for a guy with no political experience. Unfortunately for him, his party suffered a major blow, losing the elections to the National Liberal Party, while the SPD leader, Liviu Dragnea, was sentenced on corruption charges to three years and six months in jail.
What's next from him? Five years of living the good life as a member of the European Parliament, and five years of spreading more homophobic bullshit and conspiracy theories about the Romanian judicial system.
– Razvan Filip, VICE Romania
Kyriakos Velopoulos, Greek Solution
Who? Velopoulos is a former TV presenter who became famous by claiming to sell "Jesus' handwritten letters". Ηis party is ominously named "The Greek solution".
What does he believe? Putin, fake news, conspiracy theories including UFOs. And then the usual anti-immigration rhetoric.
How did he get elected? He used his endless TV appearances peddling nonsense like miracle creams to spread his hate speech.
What's next from him? Moving up to selling God's handwritten letters, I suppose. And helping his party get a couple of MPs elected at next month's Greek national elections.
– Despina Trivolis, VICE Greece
Nuno Melo, CDS-PP
What does he believe? Melo has insisted that he and his party are not far-right – instead, they're "the last frontier of a democratic right" – but he's still made some remarkably shady statements over the last few months. For example, when he was asked his opinions on a new Portuguese law that would restrict the number of guns a person could own, he compared owning a gun to owning a car.
How big was his win? The party maintained the number of representatives in the European Parliament: one. However, they had set the goal to elect one more and are being considered one of the major losers in Portugal. They got 6.2 percent of the votes.
What's next from him? We can expect him to ask for more strict measures against immigration. According to him, "We need people, but not any kind of people".
– Sergio Felizardo, VICE Portugal
Silvio Berlusconi, Forza Italia
Who? You know who.
What does he believe in? Himself. The billionaire businessman is the most famous Italian politician of the past 25 years. He has served three times as prime minister, despite his involvement in scandals of all kinds – from corruption to sex parties, right up to conviction for tax fraud.
How did he get elected? Today, he is no longer as dominant as he once was, and his party only won 8.79 percent of the vote in the European Elections. Despite the Italian anti-mafia committee declaring him "unpresentable", though, he's still here. And with over half a million preferences, he will have a seat in the European Parliament, a place that has seen him embarrass his country in many different ways. In 2003, for example, while giving a speech inaugurating Italy's six-month presidency of the EU, he compared German socialist Martin Schulz – who had dared to criticise him – to a Nazi concentration camp guard.
Angelo Ciocca, Lega
Who? In his hometown of Pavia, Lombardy, Ciocca is known as the "Bulldog" and, weirdly, "the Brad Pitt of politics".
What does he believe? He is very active on social media and is known for his pathetic stunts against "Brussels bureaucracy" and migrants. In March of 2019, for example, he protested against the abolition of daylight saving by bringing a giant replica clock into the EU parliament chamber. In October of 2018, during a press conference, he was filmed trampling on the EU Commission’s decision to reject Italy’s draft 2019 budget with a "strictly Italian" shoe.
European Commissioner for economic and financial affairs Pierre Moscovici did not take it very well, and called Ciocca’s move "grotesque", writing on Twitter that "Initially, one smiles and banalises it because it is ridiculous, but later one gets accustomed to a dull, symbolic sort of violence. And one day you wake up with fascism."
– Leonardo Bianchi, VICE Italy
Gerolf Annemans, Vlaams Belang
Who? Annemans is a leading member of Vlaams Belang, Belgium's Flemish far-right party.
What does he believe? He wants to fight against immigration and would like Flanders to be an independent state, separated from Wallonia. Annemans and his party think the EU has become a "superstate" that only cares for international crime and illegal immigration. Therefore, they wish for each European state to control their own borders again.
How big was their win? 12.05 percent, a rise of 7.8 percent, the biggest increase of all parties.
– Souria Cheurfi, VICE Belgium
UPDATE 28/07/19: An earlier version of this article wrongly attributed a quote about the dangers of climate activists to Jörg Meuthen. The quote was actually said by Alexander Gauland.